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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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July 19, 2002 - 6,490 subscribers
Today's sponsor: EBIA's ERISA Compliance for Health & Welfare Plans

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   ERISA Compliance for Health & Welfare Plans is an authoritative
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(Help BenefitsLink to provide this newsletter at no charge to you -- our sponsors pay our way. Remember to visit them periodically; we try to make sure their products and services will be of interest to you. Thanks! --Editor)

Newspapers, Drug Industry Groups and Advocacy Organizations Weigh in on Prescription Drug Issue
Excerpt: "A number of newspapers, pharmaceutical industry groups and others have commented on the congressional debate over rival Medicare prescription drug bills and other prescription drug-related legislation." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Cafeteria Plan Trade Association Creates Web Site for Health Reimbursement Arrangements
Excerpt: "HRAs are similar to Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) except that employees never lose their money at the end of the year because unused dollars are automatically rolled-over into the next year. HRAs are similar to Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) except that they are provided by employers for their employees. HRAs combine the roll-over of unused dollars (the feature that makes MSAs attractive to individuals) with the lower costs that groups get." (Employers Council on Flexible Compensation)

U.S. Drug Companies Spend Twice As Much On Marketing As Research
Excerpt: "U.S. drug companies that market the 50 most-often prescribed drugs to seniors spent more than twice as much on advertising, marketing, and administration in 2001 as they spent on research and development, according to a report by Families USA, a nonprofit national health care organization." (insure.com)

Mandated Health Insurance Benefits: Tradeoffs Among Benefits, Coverage, and Costs?
Excerpt: "An issue brief that looks at mandated health insurance benefits and the tradeoffs among benefits, coverage, and costs. It explores the debate over mandated benefits legislation, the evidence about the impact of mandates, the status of mandated benefits in other states and in California." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

The Healthcare Information Standards Marathon
Excerpt: "[W]asn't HIPAA, that landmark law targeting administrative simplification and signed in 1996, supposed to turbo-charge the adoption of electronic standards in health care? Broad adoption of electronic standards hasn't yet happened, so new private sector efforts are trying to hasten the process. Ironically, because there are several such efforts underway, the health care industry in the U.S. may still find itself, five years from now, with a range of standards ..." (iHealthBeat.com; free registration required)

New York County Publishes Survey of Prescription Drug Prices Online
Excerpt: "Westchester County, N.Y., has posted on its Web site a survey of local pharmacies' prices for 25 commonly prescribed drugs, in an effort to help county residents get the best prices for medications. Westchester becomes at least the second county in New York to publish such information online ..." (iHealthBeat.com; free registration required)

Run COBRA Program Aggressively, Says COBRA Expert
Excerpt: "Several methods that employers and plan administrators can use to aggressively administer their COBRA programs -- and minimize adverse selection and COBRA violations -- were discussed in two recent audio conferences by COBRA expert Paul M. Hamburger." (Thompson Publishing Group)

Griping Employees? Teach Them To Do It Right
Excerpt: "At each of my weekly team meetings, I set aside about 20 minutes for a peeve session, when my team members know it's OK for them to vent about stuff that's driving them crazy.... [T]here's no way I can keep employees from complaining about work and their colleagues; I just want them to get in the habit of doing it out in the open and not behind closed doors, where criticisms cease to be constructive and start being divisive." (TechRepublic)

Commentary - HIPAA's Privacy Rule
Excerpt: "For many benefits managers, the Privacy Rule looms as the next big scariest thing. Well, it certainly is a bit scary, but we don't believe it will have as big an impact as other benefit regulations you've survived.... If you want to avoid the Privacy Rule, you can do it by not getting [protected health information], i.e, by following your attorney's advice that all claims and related matters be handled by your insurer or TPA, not by you." (Nixon Peabody LLP)

Opinion: Myth Haunts Stalemate on Health Coverage
Excerpt: "The presumption is that the government is not now involved, except in paying for the care of the poor and the old.... A new study in the journal Health Affairs concludes that tax-financed health expenditures-- that is, government-- amount to 60 percent of all health spending in the United States ... [counting] direct spending on Medicare and Medicaid as well as tax subsidies for health expenses that flow to private individuals and ultimately to private insurers." (Newsday)

California Bill to End Mandatory Arbitration Passes Senate, Moves to Assembly
Excerpt: "Mandatory arbitration clauses are now common in consumer credit card agreements, home mortgages, employment applications, and health insurance contracts. The Health Insurance Association of America opposes proposals that would prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses. 'We think that decision is best made by the purchasers of health insurance [employers] and sellers [insurance companies],' says HIAA spokesman Randy Clerihue." (Managed Care magazine)

Federal Policies Affecting the Cost and Availability of New Pharmaceuticals
Excerpt: "This new report by Michael Gluck of the Georgetown University Institute for Health Care Research and Policy examines several ways in which the federal government influences the availability and cost of prescription drugs, including 1) intellectual property protection ... 2) federal support for drug research and development, 3) federal tax subsidies ... and 4) reimportation from other countries of drugs produced in the U.S. July, 2002." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

New York Life Introduces New Long Term Care Policy Tied To Inflation
Excerpt: "New York Life Insurance Co. (NYL) has included an inflation rider on its new long term care (LTC) policy that the company says is tied to actual price inflation. The company has filed for a patent on the concept." (insure.com)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General
(These items appear in both editions of the BenefitsLink Newsletter)

European Investors Cool To Stock Options
Excerpt: "Accusations that U.S. chief executives goosed their companies' share prices to cash in on stock options, has left European investors wondering if their growing enthusiasm for option plans is courting disaster." (Reuters via Forbes.com)

Stock Options: Who Gets What?
There seems to be a lot of confusion right now about just how many people are getting stock options, how much they are getting. The truth is, no one can be exactly sure. There is no reporting system for these grants that could provide a reliable data source. So the NCEO has constructed estimates based various studies. (National Center for Employee Ownership)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
Benefits Analyst for Teradyne, Inc.
in MA
Senior Manager of Plan Administration Services for Clifton Gunderson LLP
in IL
Employee Benefit, Senior Manager for Deloitte & Touche, a Professional Services Firm
in PA
Relationship Manager - Senior for Northern Trust Retirement Consulting, L.L.C.
in GA
Plan Administrator for Ceridian
in WI

Newly Posted Conferences (Post Yours!)
Responding To The Challenge Of Rising Health Care Costsin ALL STATES on July 30, 2002
presented by Health Affairs

Newly Posted Press Releases
Alexander Hamilton Institute Releases New Free Report: "Employers Use Waivers For Legal Protection" (Alexander Hamilton Institute)

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Editor and Publisher: David Rhett Baker, J.D.